MDNA Skincare launched this week in the U.S., exclusively at Barneys New York. And on Tuesday, September 26, beauty writers and editors were invited to Ludlow House to meet the star, Madonna, in real life. The whole experience had even the most savvy and jaded thrown for a loop. This was MADONNA, i.e. Madge; the creator of the soundtrack of Generation X. Here, beauty writer Amber Katz talked about what happened at the event, what Madonna whispered in her ear as their picture was taken and whether the new line will be a hit or a miss.


Accustomed to meeting stars on occasion, I’ve met a range of high-wattage celebs, from the tight-lipped and utterly boring, to the positively delightful. I can honestly say that in my 12 years of beauty writing only a few were as fun and as good at working a room as Madonna. Upon sharing her story about why she partnered with Japanese tech company MTG on her product line [their proprietary technology is second to none], she asked us if we were nervous. “Yes, you’re Madonna!” we screamed. To which she pointed out, “Why? I’m the one up here talking.” She was also extremely gracious about taking photos with all of us (about 50 were in attendance), letting us ask questions, which is not the norm. During my photo session, I talked to her about theme dressing in stripes and jeans, as she famously wore in her iconic “Papa Don’t Preach” music video. “Sit close to me like we’re on a crowded Staten Island ferry,” Madge joked when we posed. She was unpretentious and a total scream, in the words of my grandmother.

As for what Madge wore on this day? She donned a leather pussy-bow apron dress by Ralph Lauren (“I won’t be cooking today,” she quipped). Her beauty look included defined eyes, fresh skin (as one would expect) and a subtle nude lip courtesy of Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Liar. She wore her blonde hair in retro waves with an intentional deep root and a side part. Chic heels completed the look. She had her longtime hairstylist, Andy Lecompte, on site to help fix everyone’s hair for their photos.

Madonna (who goes by “M,” we learned) also shared some hard-earned knowledge. “Surround yourself with like-minded individuals and always, always, always, strive to be the stupidest person in the room,” she advised, meaning to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you so that you can always learn. She said that her fame and popularity comes and goes, but she has tenacity. “It’s about doing the work,” she said. “We’re living in a world today where achieving things quickly and skipping the process is what most people are consumed by,” she said. “Hopefully that idea will come back around.” She referenced the famous 10,000-hour rule Malcolm Gladwell has written about, which refers to a principle that says 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” are needed to become world-class in any field. She said that she and the MTG team have put in the hours for her new collection and that it took about four years to perfect before they launched in Asia in 2014.

Besides the power of the world’s biggest star — pop or otherwise — as the creator and face of MDNA Skincare, the line is poised for Stateside success. The brand’s products have already been flying off shelves in Japan despite its luxe price point, thanks to MTG’s unique technological input and Madonna’s “control freak” sensibilities. She noted that she thinks of herself as more a seeker of knowledge. “I like to ask questions and I care about details,” she explained. “If you don’t, you’ll end up in a mediocre place with a half-assed product. Or a half-assed life and that’s not for me.” Surely not.

Another reason it’s slated for sell-out status is that the products were created with input from dermatologist Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, who’s worked with Madonna on the line for the past few years. At the launch event, Dr. Frank noted that advances are coming down the pike in home skin care that aren’t limited just to serums or hero ingredients. “Hero ingredients and packaging aren’t going to go by the wayside, it’s just that we need the 2.0,” he said. “There’s an opportunity for a dream team of technology, formulations, celebrity, cosmetic dermatology.”

And finally, why MDNA Skincare will likely be a hit is that it simply works well. The Serum is one of the best I’ve tried, managing not to make me greasy, but hydrated and smooth, without clogging my pores. The oil-to-foam face wash yields an incredibly elegant consistency, and removes even waterproof makeup with ease. Madonna confessed to using all of the products from the line on her entire body. “I’ve used the clay mask on my butt,” she confessed. “Don’t you want soft skin on your butt?” She rubs The Serum into her knees; The Eye Serum on her elbows and forehead. “I attack my children with the rose mist,” she said.

“This isn’t a vanity project, even though it’s connected to vanity,” Madonna said. “That’s one of life’s paradoxes.”